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Iris Fun

Since people kept asking for this (including the author - Debbie), I decided
to post a copy from my private email archives.

Beth Matney (bmatney@is.alltel.com)

Posted to the Gardens List (gardens@lsv.uky.edu)
Date:    Sun, 5 May 1996 23:53:46 -0400
From:    green deborah <dxgree@FACSTAFF.WM.EDU>
Subject: Iris fun

Just a note on the benefits of email--I spent much of my weekend at iris
events, courtesy of information on IRIS-L, which I joined awhile back when
Tom Tadfor announced it on GARDENS-L.  Saturday I visited the local iris show
(of the Virginia Peninsula Iris Society) at one of Williamsburg's outlet malls.
The president of the local group (Nelda Pressley) had sent me an email
invitation when she saw a question I had about iris club sales.  There were
lovely displays at the show and I saw some "space-age" iris for the first time.
I chatted with some of the group members and carefully noted varieties I
wouldn't having mind for my own garden.

Sunday it was off to the Portsmouth/Suffolk area for an iris tour
organized by the Portsmouth, Chesapeake & Suffolk Iris Society.  Bill
Smoot had urged me to attend both their show and the tour, but I opted for the
tour when I knew I wouldn't want to make the hour-long trip two days in a
row.  Bill had a brunch for all the participants and his home and gardens are
incredible!  He has a small "city" lot, but has 3 or 4 water features (two of
them full scale ponds) as well as numerous trellises and garden "objects."  He
grows EVERYTHING, not just iris.  And it is all meticulously labelled.  His
peonies were already in bloom and the iris (many tall bearded and siberians as
well as a generous smattering of other types) at their peak.  (And the
food!  Delectable croissants with sausage or ham, etc.)

Clarence Mahan gave a presentation on breeding iris--which sounds like
it can produce much more instant gratification than hybridizing
daffodils (which I also recently learned about).  From cross to bloom is
often just two years!  It was also interesting to learn that the
beardless iris require more effort to protect your cross from "other"
pollen than do the beardeds.  As is always the case when
you get to meet people in person you find out interesting facts.
After a request from his wife Clarence has moved the many cups of drying
iris seed he collects from his crosses each year from the kitchen to his
study (a model for all spousal behavior, yes?)  And when talk turned to an
older man who had taken up with a woman in her 20s Clarence vowed he
will never chase after younger women because he doesn't like to disappoint

We then visited Jan Bryant's (?) garden (I didn't do well with getting
everyone's full names, but she had apparently cleaned up the awards at THEIR
Iris show the day before...).  Incredible iris beds--and we heard another
presentation by Clarence--this one on judging iris in the garden.  I
learned a lot about what desirable iris growth habits are--and when I
came home I realized many of my old types have some glaring faults!  Jan's
displays were virtually flawless; I again made note of a few beauties I'd
like to try.

Although I managed to back into the ditch on the way out of the drive, I
made it to our last stop--another feast of iris in many beds around a
large lot.  Despite the fact that half the backyard had recently been dug
up to install a septic field and the pond had accidentally been drained
by an animal chewing through a feeder line and was still refilling, there
were some great design features in this garden where, like at Bill
Smoot's, there were some beds where many non-iris bloomed.  I was
particularly enthralled with all the coral honeysuckle in full flower (it
is barely starting here) and some unusual brooms in bloom.

I love visiting other people's gardens!!

Debbie, your Correspondent in Williamsburg, VA (Who would like to be able to
make a living doing such visiting!!)

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